), a town of Palestine, frequently mentioned by Josephus, and from which the district Gamalitis (B. J.
3.3.5) derived its name.
This district was apparently identical with that otherwise called Lower Gaulanitis by the same historian, in which Gamala was situated (iv, 1.1).
It is first mentioned as a fortress of great strength, in the life of Alexander Jannaeus, who reduced it (B. J.
It is placed by Josephus opposite to Tarichaea, and on the lake. Its site and character are minutely described: “A rugged ridge, stretching itself from a high mountain, rises in a lump midway, and elongates itself from the rise, declining as much before as behind, so as to resemble a camel in form, whence it derives its name. Both in flank and in front it is cleft into inaccessible ravines; but at the back it is somewhat easier of ascent, being there joined to the mountains, from which, however, the inhabitants severed it by a trench, and rendered the approach more difficult. Against the precipitous face of the mountain numerous houses had been built, closely crowded one on another; and the city, apparently suspended in the air, seemed to be falling upon itself, by reason of its perpendicular site.
It inclines towards the mid-day sun; and the hill, stretching upward with a southern aspect to a prodigious height, served as a citadel to the town: while an impregnable cliff above. it extended downward into a ravine of vast depth. Within the ramparts was a fountain, at which the city terminated.” ; (B. J.
At the first outbreak of the Jewish rebellion it was for a time maintained in its fidelity to the Romans, through the influence of Philip, the lieutenant (ἔπαρχος
) of King Agrippa (Vita,
§ 11); but subsequently it revolted, and was garrisoned and fortified by Josephus ( § 37) with mines and trenches, so as to make it the strongest fortress in that part of the country (B. J.
4.1.2). Accordingly, when its recovery was attempted by the younger Agrippa, his troops were occupied for seven months in an ineffectual attempt to take it by siege.
It was taken, however, by Vespasian, after a spirited resistance of the garrison, when the loss sustained by the legionaries was revenged by the indiscriminate slaughter of the survivors, of whom 4000 perished by the sword, and 5000 threw themselves from the walls, and were dashed to pieces in the ravines below.
The site of this strong fortress, though so remarkable, and so minutely described by Josephus, had been forgotten for nearly eighteen centuries, when Lord Lindsay attempted to recover it in a steep insulated hill to the east of the sea of Tiberias, and nearly opposite to that town.
It is now called El-Hossn,
and lies, according to Burckhardt, between the village of Feik
and the shore, three quarters of an hour from the former; “having extensive ruins of buildings, walls, and columns on its top.” (Burckhardt, Syria,
p. 278, with a wood-cut of the site.)
According to Lord Lindsay, the hill, “at a distance, so strongly resembles the hump of a camel, that I think there can be little doubt of its being the ancient Gamala.
It has been a place of tremendous strength, and no slight importance. Valleys, deep and almost perpendicular, surround it on the north, east, and south. On the south side, the rock is scarped angularly for defence; on the eastern, it is built up so as to bar all approach from below; to the south-east a neck of [p. 1.972]
land, of much lower elevation, and scarped on both sides, connects it with the neighbouring mountains, and communicates by a steep descent with the southern valley; travellers from the east and west appear to have met at this neck of land, and thence ascended to the city. If, as I conclude, the houses were built on the steep face of the mountain, Josephus might well describe them as hanging as if they would fall one on the other. All traces of them have been swept away, and the mountain is now covered with thick grass.
The top is sprinkled with trees; we found many ruins on it, apparently of the citadel, but not. very interesting.” (Travels,
vol. ii. pp. 92, 93.)